Ok, so here’s one I think a lot of you have been wanting/waiting for (judging by the messages I get on instagram, anyway!): a few helpful tips + tricks + advice for people just starting out on keto.
Now. Of course. Word of warning: these are based on *my* experience on keto and mine alone; if you think it’s a dumb idea, don’t use it! No worries. Find what works for you; that’s the whole point of life (I think). But here’s what I’d recommend:
- Don’t have a cheat meal for *at least* 100 days. Give keto a good, solid try before you return to the seductive arms of your wanton mistress, carbohydrates. A week is not a ‘good, solid try.’ At a week, you’ll be lucky if you’re even in keto. A month, you’ll just be hitting your stride. 100 days, though – your body will be fat adapted, you’ll have figured out the routine a bit, and you’ll get the full *experience* of a cheat meal (word of warning: it’s usually not a very fun experience). I know it’s hard. I KNOW IT’S HARD TO STAY AWAY FROM CARBS. I hear you. I feel you. But. The point of keto is low carb. If you’re cheating every week, your body is barely going to get back into keto by the next injection of carbs. You’re gonna feel like hot garbage all the time. (Ok, disclaimer: some people have great success with a weekly carb-up night; they do cyclical keto. I do no do this, because that would quickly turn into a carb binge. If you’re one of those people who can handle a carb night, awesome! But still – wait until you’re firmly comfortable with keto before you start experimenting with this).
- Try not to rely too heavily on “frankenfoods” at first. Quest bars are great. Atkins shakes are great. Russel Stover sugar free chocolate is so good that I won’t keep it in my house. Mission low carb tortillas are literally better to me than the carby version. But these aren’t ~real~ foods in the strictest sense (in my opinion), and if you start out relying on them a lot…. you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. Focus on REAL foods – meat, eggs, cheese, veggies, nuts – and use the frankenfoods sparingly until you have a good feel for keto. I’m not saying “NO FAKE FOODS! CHEMICALS BLAHHH!!! ADDITIVES NOOOO;” let’s not get carried away. I had Quest bars in my first month on keto. I ate some sugar free chocolate. I had a few Atkins shakes. But if every meal of the day is incorporating these, and that’s the only way you’re staying keto… be honest with yourself and ask if this is really the Way Of Eating for you. It’s not for everyone, and that’s totally ok. Low fat isn’t for me. Weight Watchers wouldn’t be for me. Veganism certainly isn’t for me. Not every Way Of Eating will work for everyone – be realistic about whether keto is a change you want to make.
- THE DEAL WITH MACROS: ok, here’s something that took me a whiiiiiiile to figure out. Carbs are a limit: stay under 20g (or whatever you’ve set yours to). Protein is a goal: aim to hit it each day. Fat is for feeling full: if you’re hungry, have more fat. If you’re not hungry, DON’T EAT. I struggled with this a lot in the beginning – I felt like I had to eat ALL my fat grams every day, because the point of keto was high fat. The point of keto is low carb. Keep carbs low, eat enough protein to save your muscles, use fat to keep you full. You don’t *need* fat bombs every day (though they are nice snacks). You don’t *need* to eat cheese dipped in butter (though I def recommend it because it’s tasty AF). Focus on keeping carbs low, and using fat to stay full – not eating all the fat you can fit into your mouth.
- KETOSTIX: these can be handy, especially for someone starting out who wants to monitor when they hit ketosis, but honestly – I used maybe 20 of them. Total. Ever. In my whooooole 1k+ day keto journey. Maybe I just don’t like peeing on things, idk, but I got really annoyed with them really quickly. First of all, they’re not super accurate – they show excess ketones in your urine. Urine is showing what was going on in your body when it was made a few hours ago – not *right now*. So you’re already operating on a delay. Then there’s the fact that it’s showing excess ketones – if there’s excess, it means your body isn’t using them. That’s why you’re peeing them out. So that dark dark purple color just means you have a LOT of ketones your body isn’t using, and oops – there they go. Down the toilet. Then there’s the whole issue that it shows concentration levels – if you drink a lot of water (which you should be doing!!! PLEASE BE DRINKING WATER), you’re going to get lower level readings because your urine is so diluted. You’re peeing more often, so the ketones are being flushed out of your body constantly. I almost never registered above low levels of ketones because I drink a gallon a day. That = a lot of pee. A lot. I pee all the time. If you’re not drinking much, the (excess!) ketones don’t get flushed out as often, and you’ll show as being in “””””deep”””” ketosis because they’re just all chilling in your bladder at the same time, rather than being flushed out periodically throughout the day.
Now. If these help you – if you like the feedback of that little purple square – fucking go for it, dudes! Pee on all the strips you want! I’m not here to rain on your pee parade. I’m just saying: be aware that they’re not super accurate, don’t be frustrated if you’re not getting that deep purple, and please please wash your hands. And please please PLEASE don’t post pictures of your strips with visible pee drops on them because really, ew. I’m sorry but ew.
- PLEASE DRINK MORE WATER. PLEASE. MY KIDNEYS ARE CRYING FOR YOU. 1 LITER IS NOT ENOUGH WATER. IT IS NOT. STAY HYDRATED. The rule of thumb is to halve your body weight (in pounds) and drink that many ounces of water a day. At a minimum. Your body. Needs. Water. I really cannot stress this enough. Please drink water. The less water you drink, the more your body holds on to it. You retain water when you don’t have enough water in your system.
Drink more water -> flush more water -> feel real skinny -> yay hooray good times.
Drink less water -> feel all bloated -> the scale won’t budge -> you get those clothing indent lines from your skin retaining water -> not cute -> bad times.
- ELECTROLYTES. THEY’RE WHAT PLANTS (AND YOU) CRAVE. Sodium is your friend!!!! Really!!!!! I grew up hearing from E V E R Y O N E that sodium was the salty devil himself, reincarnated in spice form that only exists to make your food taste good AND THEN KILL YOU. That’s….. the exact opposite of how it is on keto. Disclaimer that I’m not a nutritionist or scientist or whatever so this is a very…………laymen-friendly explanation pieced together from shit I read on reddit. Take it with a grain of salt (and then a few more grains, because sodium):
- Carbs…hold on to sodium. Somehow. So when you’re eating lots of carbs, lots of sodium = bloat city. But with no carbs? Nothing for the sodium to stick to inside your body. So whoosh, there it goes. Flushing right through you. To counteract this, you need more.
- Sodium is the most readily-available electrolyte that your body will draw on; if you don’t have enough sodium, it’ll start using potassium and magnesium – and when you get low on those, you start to feel reeeeeaaaaallllll fucking awful. Headachey, nauseous, fatigued, you name it. This is that “keto flu” that many people experience – electrolyte imbalance as all the water weight held onto by carbs is being flushed out, and the electrolytes along with it. Have some broth. Have some Powerade Zero. Get those electrolytes in check and it should help a lot.
- I aim for 3500mg sodium a day. More is even better. I put salt on everything. Sometimes I make my own “ketorade” with a crystal light packet, salt, and potassium (the fake salt replacement). Salt is good. It tastes good, and on keto, it makes you feel good. Really. I promise. (And no, it hasn’t made my blood pressure higher – my blood pressure has lowered quite a bit on keto, even with the massive salt intake).
- Magnesium and potassium supplements can be helpful if you’re not sure you’re getting enough from your food. If you have lots of muscles soreness and fatigue, try a magnesium supplement (they also help you poop, if that’s an issue you’re having).
Ok that’s…. pretty much it for now, I think! There may be a part 2 someday but these are the big tips that have helped me the most and that I try to tell other keto beginners because I wish I’d had someone tell them to me. I hope they help you!